Harkening back to the original Mobile Suit Gundam, the mecha genre has often been used to evoke feelings created the atrocities of war. Since then, there has been numerous series that have sought to add an additional twist to the genre, whether it be magic or aliens. Broken Blade uses the former, infusing an otherwise straightforward mecha series with a hint of fantasy.
This is not Broken Blade’s first exposure to American audiences. The anime stems from a six volume manga by Yonosuke Yoshinaga, three of which were licensed and released in the States by DC Comics’ subsidiary CMX before its eventual shuttering. Sentai Filmworks licensed the series, releasing it on DVD and Blu-ray soon after.
Remove the magic and Broken Blade’s story is fairly standard. In a country populated by citizens capable of using magic, a young man without any such ability unlocks a powerful ancient mecha, which he must pilot to protect those he loves – even if it means doing battle with his former friend. The series borrows heavily from the Gundam franchise, utilizing elements found in the original 0th MS Team, and Seed. Fortunately, the added twist of magic – specifically quartz manipulation – breathes fresh air into the concept and allows the series to stand on its own. The skills of the pilot translate into their magical prowess, as those more adept can accomplish more with their suits or Golems as they are called. It’s also nice to see that the main protagonist is not a gifted pilot nor does he possess a hidden ability that automatically gives him the edge over everyone.
Told across six short films, the story follows Rygart Arrow, an enigma in a world where sorcery is a way of life. His inability to manipulate quartz makes him virtually useless as a soldier, though that did little to stop him from attending military academy. While there he befriends three others – Hodr, Sigyn, and Zess - who together will impact the future of the country. Fast forward several years later and Rygart is summoned by Hodr, the current king of the country, seeking his friend’s help in protecting the land and his queen – Sigyn – from invading forces led by, you guessed it, Zess. When the enemy forces break through the defenses, Rygart accidently boots up an old war suit capable of besting any golem.
Aside from the tension built around the conflict of the four, the series introduces romantic tension involving Rygart and Sigyn. Hodr for his part seems aware of their underlying feelings for each other, but being a good king, he does not act to separate them, knowing that Rygart is his only hope of defending the nation.
Fans of mecha series are usually drawn in by the battles and this is where Broken Blade shines. The action sequences coupled with the brutality of the mechs slamming into each other is something to behold. Also of interest is the amount of damage the suits accumulate by the end of a battle; Production I.G and Xebec handle the animation with loving care, crafting every detail to show the wear and tear the golems endure as the fights rage.
For what it is and what it offers, Broken Blade allows fans of the mecha genre something not entirely played out. The series proceeds exactly almost exactly as one would imagine, but the common conventions of anime from which it borrows are done well enough to ignore these shortcomings.